CSX Corp., the biggest railroad in the eastern U.S., and Conrail Inc. were sued by more than 50 New Jersey residents who were exposed to toxic chemicals after a train derailed last month.
The residents of Paulsboro, near Philadelphia, were exposed to vinyl chloride monomer, a human carcinogen, after a railroad bridge collapsed over Mantua Creek and derailed a CSX train, according to the complaint filed yesterday in state court in Philadelphia. Conrail owned and operated the bridge, according to the filing.
Four tank cars filled with VCM plunged into the creek on Nov. 30, spilling more than 100,000 pounds of the chemical. The surrounding neighborhood was evacuated and more than 60 people required treatment at a local hospital, Mark Cuker, an attorney for the residents, said in the court filing.
Acute exposure to vinyl chloride affects the central nervous system, causing dizziness, drowsiness and lung and kidney irritation, according to the complaint.
The plaintiffs accuse Jacksonville, Florida-based CSX and Philadelphia-based Conrail of negligence for failing to properly maintain the bridge and allowing a train carrying hazardous chemicals to cross, even though a red signal indicated it wasn’t properly aligned.
The companies failed to take proper action on complaints about the bridge, including at least 23 “trouble tickets” reporting malfunctions this year, according to the complaint. The residents are seeking medical monitoring and unspecified damages.
“We will review legal filings but don’t have comment at this time,” Gary Sease, a CSX spokesman, said in an e-mail. CSX filed a notice of removal transferring the case to federal court in Philadelphia, according to documents filed today.
Michael Hotra, a spokesman for Conrail, said the company would respond to the complaint “at an appropriate time and in an appropriate place.”
“Our focus today remains on providing assistance to individuals in the community and working through unified command to manage this incident,” Hotra said in a phone interview.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s National Incident Management System is coordinating the response to the derailment with members of the unified command, including the Coast Guard, Conrail and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, according to a website set up by the group.
The case is Swindell-Filiaggi v. Conrail, 121201490, Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County (Philadelphia). The federal case number is 12-cv-06962, U.S. District Court, Eastern District of Pennsylvania (Philadelphia).